All of algekalipso's Comments + Replies

For people who are planning on taking psychedelics (I'm not suggesting they do, but if they will anyway) or who have already done so: perhaps consider writing a high-quality trip report. They are super rare, and rationalist-informed trip reports might be excellent sources for research leads to figure out how the brain works.

For inspiration, perhaps read: Guide to Writing Rigorous Reports of Exotic States of Consciousness.

Also, I recommend reading "The Grand Illusion" by Steven Lehar for some excellent pointers for how psychedelic experiences can legitimate... (read more)

This is substantiated by data in "Logarithmic Scales of Pleasure and Pain" (quote):

Birth of children

I have heard a number of mothers and father say that having kids was the best thing that ever happened to them. The survey showed this was a very strong pattern, especially among women. In particular, a lot of the reports deal with the very moment in which they held their first baby in their arms for the first time. Some quotes to illustrate this pattern:

The best experience of my life was when my first child was born. I was unsure how I would feel or what to

... (read more)

The histogram of CSHW amplitudes seems to have very little information content, while the entire matrix of just-noticeable-differences of our experience seems to have a whole lot of information. If CSHWs are so important to determine a "brain state", where is all the missing information?

Two points here. First, according to the theory -as Mike points out- the overall "mood" of the state is largely encoded in the low frequency harmonics, while the higher frequency ones are more important for semantic information. In a sense, you can thin... (read more)

I'd mention that Steven Lehar foreshadowed the paradigm in his Directional Harmonic Theory of neurocomputation. I recommend reading his book "The Grand Illusion" for abundant phenomenological data in favor of this flavor of neurocomputation.

Definitely. I'll probably be quoting some of your text in articles on Qualia Computing soon, in order to broaden the bridge between LessWrong-consumable media and consciousness research.

Of all the articles linked, perhaps the best place to start would be the Pseudo-time Arrow. Very curious to hear your thoughts about it.

Sure! It is "invariance under an active transformation". The more energy is trapped in phenomenal spaces that are invariant under active transformations, the more blissful the state seems to be (see "analysis" section of this article).

Really great post!

Andrés (Qualia Computing) here. Let me briefly connect your article with some work that QRI has done.

First, we take seriously the view of a "moment of experience" and study the contents of such entities. In Empty Individualism, every observer is a "moment of experience" and there is no continuity from one moment to the next; the illusion is caused by the recursive and referential way the content of experience is constructed in brains. We also certainly agree that you can be aware of something without being aware of bei... (read more)

Could you elaborate on how you're using the word "symmetrical" here?
Thanks, glad to hear you liked it! I didn't have a chance to look at your linked stuff yet, but will. :)

I have seen this argument before, and I must confess that I am very puzzled about the kind of mistake that is going on here. I might call it naïve functionalist realism, or something like that. So whereas in "standard" naïve realism people find it hard to dissociate their experiences with an existing mind-independent world, they then go on to perceive everything as "seeing the world directly, nothing else, nothing more." Naïve realists will interpret their experiences as direct, unmediated, impressions of the real world.

Of course this ... (read more)

No, it is much more simple than that - "green" is a wavelength of light, and "the feeling of green" is how the information "green" is encoded in your information processing system, that's it. No special ontology for qualia or whatever. Qualia isn't a fundamental component of the universe like quarks and photons are, it's only encoding of information in your brain. But yes, how reality is encoded in an information system sometimes doesn't match the external world, the information system can be wrong. That's a natural, direct consequence of that ontology, not a new postulate, and definitely not any other ontology. The fact that "the feeling of green" is how "green wavelength" is encoded in an information processing system automatically implies that if you perturbate the information processing system by giving it LSD, it may very well encode "green wavelength" without "green wavelength" being actually present. In short, ontology is not the right level to look at qualia - qualia is information in a (very) complex information processing system, it has no fundamental existence. Trying to explain it at an ontological level just make you ask invalid questions.

With the aid of qualia computing and a quantum computer, perhaps ;-)

Both you and prase seem to be missing the point. The experience of green has nothing to with wavelengths of light. Wavelengths of light are completely incidental to the experience. Why? Because you can experience the qualia of green thanks to synesthesia. Likewise, if you take LSD at a sufficient dose, you will experience a lot of colors that are unrelated to the particular input your senses are receiving. Finally, you can also experience such color in a dream. I did that last night.

The experience of green is not the result of information-processing that w... (read more)

Not at all. The experience of green is the way our information processing system internally represent "light of green wavelength", nothing else. That if you voluntarily mess up with your cognitive hardware by taking drugs, or that during background maintenance tasks, or that "bugs" in the processing system can lead to "experience of green" when there is no real green to be perceived doesn't change anything about it - the experience of green is the way "green wavelenngth" is encoded in our information processing system, nothing less, nothing more.

Quantum mechanics by itself is not an answer. A ray in a Hilbert space looks less like the world than does a scattering of particles in a three-dimensional space. At least the latter still has forms with size and shape. The significance of quantum mechanics is that conscious experiences are complex wholes, and so are entangled states. So a quantum ontology in which reality consists of an evolving network of states drawn from Hilbert spaces of very different dimensionalities, has the potential to be describing conscious states with very high-dimensional te

... (read more)

I am super late to the party. But I want to say that I agree with you and I find your line of research interesting and exciting. I myself am working on a very similar space.

I own a blog called Qualia Computing. The main idea is that qualia actually plays a causally and computationally relevant role. In particular, it is used in order to solve Constraint Satisfaction Problems with the aid of phenomenal binding. Here is the "about" of the site:

Qualia Computing? In brief, epiphenomenalism cannot be true. Qualia, it turns out, must have a causally

... (read more)

I suspect half speed is actually a rational decision given some underlying model AnnaSalamon was not aware of explicitly.

For instance, she may intuitively feel that she just passed the hotel. If so, then being extra careful to look well for features and marks around you that could give you hints of whether this happened could work best at half speed. Are there fewer hotels around? Is it a residential area? Does the amount of economic activity seems to be increasing or decreasing as I move in this direction? Then, you can turn around and get there faster.... (read more)

Good feedback! In the future I will always add that option. The statistical analysis is trickier, but it can be done :)

Thanks for your feedback. I am aiming to have the writeup done by August 8th. You will be able to find it in Qualia Computing.


Enough people are continuing to answer the questionnaire that it makes sense to extend the deadline until midnight (California time) of the Sunday 2nd of August of 2015.

Thanks for helping! I am aiming to have the writeup with the results ready by August 8th.

doing mind-coalescing and decolescing

That is not enough to solve the problem of other minds, as the article explains. The main problem is that when you incorcoporate a whole brain into your overall brain-mass by connecting to it, you can't be certain whether the other being was conscious to begin with or whether the effect is a simple result of your massively amplified brain.

That's why you need a scheme that allows the other being to solve a puzzle while you are disconnected. The puzzle needs to be such that only a conscious intelligence could solve it... (read more)

"Consciousness is different than the subject?" This and many other ones are tricky. But I know people who harbor strong opinions about them. In the end, it does not matter vey much that people from all over the place disagree a lot about those questions... that only means they are not really measuring any important latent trait. On the other hand, there are quite a few questions that people disagree on predictably. In other words, they can be used to determine the memetic cluster to which you belong.

Thanks for the heads up. I know of a statistical method to reduce the bias provided by lazy users :)

I have a solution to the problems of other minds, actually. But it requires you to recognize that you are conscious yourself, which is not necessarily possible for all people.

Check: And:

Apparently so. I guess I gave up on the last page. Sorry about that.

The average time people take to complete the survey is 20 minutes, with most people taking 15 and a long tail of people taking up to several hours, presumably because they went on to do something else for a while and returned to complete it later.

Thanks for mentioning the problem with the links. Fixed.

Yeah, I did not expect 15-20 min, with no indication of the progress thus far. Maybe if it showed "page 10 of 25" or something...

This is an awesome, awesome, awesome post! I think you have nailed a few important axis of variance that we usually neglect.

Now, precisely because you are still part of the community and can accept rationalist memes, you are an important sample to learn what the rationalist community is not. At least what it is not necessarily.

Would you, and any other self-identified rationalist sidekick, please fill out this survey?

I am analyzing how personality is related to beliefs about consciousness and memetic affiliations. If only heroes fill out the questionnaire... (read more)

I'm currently running a study on personality and consciousness in the transhumanist community. The questionnaire also inquires into the possible effects of Aspergers in memetic affiliations.

Of course, LessWrongers are an important piece of the puzzle. Please help me by answering this survey:

My guess is that there are several variables that are indeed positively correlated throughout the entire range, but are particularly highly correlated at the very top. Why not? I'm pretty sure we can come up with a list.

Did you know that we already have instances of things that pass the Turing test?

And more surprisingly, that we don't generally consider them conscious?

And the most amazing of all: That they have existed for probably at the very least a hundred thousand years (but possibly much more)?

I am talking about the characters in our dreams

They fool us into thinking that they are conscious! That they are the subjects of their own worlds just as people presumably are when awake.

You can have a very eloquent conversation with a dream character without ever noticing ther... (read more)

They borrow our machinery for consciousness - it's not clear to me that they aren't. Also, it's rare for a dream to be so coherent that a transcript would convince an unimpaired (conscious) human.

This seems to be associated with higher than average testosteron levels. If you inject testosterone to a random man he will very prone to not lie and be overly straightforward.

Sources? Maybe I should get a blood test.

If you lack an objective, a good goal is to be able to solve national math Olympiad problems in the time allowed for the competitions.

Project Euler also is a good goal, but from more of an algorithmic/programming perspective. From reading up on the math Olympiad, it sounds a lot like the competitions I went to in 4th through 8th grade. They taught me some quite useful skills - in college, discrete and combinatorial algebra was a breeze.

At this rate it might be very rational to look at ways to modify our cognitive architecture and limbic system to experience long term and sustained attraction and love... rather than hack it via external stimuli.

MDMA is promising when it comes to revive intimacy between long term couples. But its neurotoxic profile makes this non-workable for most people. Long term sustainable mood enrichers and love enhancers should be developed... this will be much more life enriching than just rationally learning what relationship style best suits you.

The crux of the disagreement, I think, is in the way we understand the self-assessment of our experience. If consciousness is epiphenomenal or just a different level of description of a purely physical world, this self-assessment is entirely algorithmic and does not disclose anything real about the intrinsic nature of consciousness.

But consciousness is not epiphenomenal, and a purely computational account fails to bridge the explanatory gap. Somehow conscious experience can evaluate itself directly, which still remains a not well understood and peculiar f... (read more)

Indeed, epiphenomenalism can seemingly be easily disproved by its implication that if it were true, then we wouldn't be able to talk about our consciousness. As I said in the essay, though, consciousness is that of which we can be most certain of, by its directly accessible nature, and I would rather think that we are living in a virtual world under an universe with other, alien physical laws, than that consciousness itself is not real.

No, dude, the correct answer is "because he is a man!"

As a transhumanist, that does not follow.

I think you are not aware of research in acquired taste. It turns out that the effect of particular foods and drinks on psychological states create some deep subconscious associations. Take this as a clear and striking example:

"A study that investigated the effect of adding caffeine and theobromine (active compounds in chocolate) vs. a placebo to identically-flavored drinks that participants tasted several times, yielded the development of a strong preference for the drink with the compounds.[3]"

I think that's why I do enjoy beer now, even though... (read more)

It is my understanding that outrage is the result of 'selective empathy' if at all, and VERY often completely lacking in empathy. E.g. When a group of people are outraged to a gay couple for having gay sex. Ok, so where is empathy in this case? Victimless crime evoking huge deontological moral self-righteousness and anger.

We know that many zealous followers are willing to die for the honor of their leaders. It would not be very surprising to see that happen in early Christianity.

There isn't even a requirement that they all do so - or even most! Those who recanted would be forgotten, their recanting being attributed to pressure rather than belief.

And yet fire as a phenomenon exists in several spatio-temporal coordinates, right? If the observer of consciousness is a property of conscious experience as a physical phenomena, maybe we should expect to find it wherever consciousness exists.

Downvoted for quoting LW..

"'Whereof one cannot speak thereof be silent,' the seventh and final proposition of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, is to me the most beautiful but also the most errant. 'Whereof one cannot speak thereof write books, and music, and invent new and better terminology through mathematics and science,' something like that, is how I would put it. Or, if one is not predisposed to some such productivity, '. . . thereof look steadfastly and directly into it forever.'"

-- Daniel Kolak, comment on a post by Gordon Cornwall.

This misses the point that Wittgenstein made. Inventing better terminology doesn't help you if you don't have any information in the first place. Something might have happened before the big bang. The big bang erased all information about what happened before the big bang. Therefore we shouldn't speak about what happened before the big bang. Gods might exist or might not exist. We don't have any evidence to decide whether they exist. Therefore we should stop speaking about gods. To come to a question that more central to this community: We have no way to decide through the scientific method whether the Many Worlds Hypothesis is true. According to Wittgenstein we should therefore be silent. Inventing new terminology doesn't help with those issues.

It actually sounds to me like CEV will indeed spit it out. It will explain how a better understanding of what we are will lead us to abandon the constrains of the human experience in th search for maximizing the goodness of the universe, a scenario that we would understand if we were smarter, had grown more closer together and had a better grasp of the nature of identity and consciosness and subjective reward.

It might not provide a lot of knowledge to the subject who practices mysticism. It does provide the best experience in his or her life.

For the time being, this might not provide a lot of value in the grand scheme of things. However, as we advance into posthumanisty, we do want to explore the state-space of possible conscious experiences in a systematic way so we can design ourselves in such a way that we inhabit the best regions of conscious experience. Mysticistical practice, therefore, has a tremendous long term potentintial; having practicioners and sc... (read more)

I personally would rather live a good life into my prime and be humanely >slaughtered and fed to some higher life form, than never exist at all. For the most part, the >animals I eat would not have ever existed had the demand for meat not existed as well.

It seems to me that when you say 'never exist at all' you are bringing a mystic notion of identity into conscious experience. A lot has been written about personal identity and the like, and I would argue that the notion of one's identity tied to genetic makeup or historical origin is not the m... (read more)

You're getting into dangerous philosophical territory here, which is not at all easy to resolve. If there are two animals with very similar brain states are they distinct animals? If not, have we doubled the subjective chance of an animal experiencing the state of the doubled animal? These aren't straightforward questions at all. See the Anthropic Trilemma. I'm not sure how anyone could argue that bringing more suffering animals into the world is good. I support humane treatment of livestock, which I think makes for a net positive regardless of how the Anthropic Trilemma pans out: If it turns out that most animals are so similar as to not count for distinct entities, but subjective probabilities still exist, so that increasing the percentage of animals in one state increases the chances of experiencing that state for an animal, then it is a good thing to raise lots of animals in a humane fashion. If it turns out that animals aren't distinct and subjective probabilities can't be affected, then it seems the entire moral quandary disappears. The subjective experience of animals is forever fixed, regardless of our actions, so even factory farming wouldn't be unethical (although I would still support humane treatment of animals because I believe it makes for a healthier meal for me). If it turns out that every animal is a unique entity, then the moral question must come down to individual cases. Should I bring this potential animal into existence? In this case I believe a close proxy for this question is: if this animal already exists, is it worse for it to have never existed? In the case of a humanely raised animal, I believe the answer is 'yes' to both of these questions.

I may not risk to claim: There are no human inequalities, there are only sentient inequalities.